VICTORIA, British Columbia — Having a drink after a long day is a common habit for many — but is it bad for your health? In a new study, researchers in Canada say enjoying a daily beer or glass of wine does not raise the risk of a premature death. However, enjoying alcoholic beverages regularly does not boost health, either.
Low to moderate drinkers have similar mortality rates to those who avoid alcohol entirely, scientists explain. Meanwhile, women who drink more than a glass of wine a day are at least 20 percent more prone to an early grave than abstainers.
For heavy drinkers, those who down up to a bottle a day are 61 percent more likely to die before their time. Two pints a day raised men’s risk by 15 percent, rising to 34 percent among those who have an average of three drinks. The findings are based on a review of 4.8 million people, making it one of the biggest analyses of its kind.
“There was a significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality among female drinkers who drank 25 or more grams per day and among male drinkers who drank 45 or more grams per day,” lead author Dr. Jinhui Zhao from the University of Victoria and the team write in JAMA Network Open.
Drinking for your health appears to be bad advice
The study adds to evidence that the idea the odd drink is good for you is a myth. Dr. Zhao’s team pooled data from 107 studies around the world.
“In this updated systematic review and meta-analysis, daily low or moderate alcohol intake was not significantly associated with all-cause mortality risk, while increased risk was evident at higher consumption levels, starting at lower levels for women than men,” the study authors write.
The proposition that low-dose alcohol use protects against all-cause mortality in general populations continues to be controversial.
“Observational studies tend to show that people classified as ‘moderate drinkers’ have longer life expectancy and are less likely to die from heart disease than those classified as abstainers,” Dr. Zhao’s group continues.
However, these individuals tend to have better dental hygiene, exercise more, and have higher incomes. Abstainers may have poorer health or are “sick quitters” or former drinkers, many of whom cut down or stop for health reasons. Dr. Zhao and the team took these factors into account.
“Our meta-analysis of 107 studies found no significant protective associations of occasional or moderate drinking with all-cause mortality and an increased risk of all-cause mortality for drinkers who drank 25 g or more and a significantly increased risk when drinking 45 g or more per day,” the team concludes.
“Future longitudinal studies in this field should attempt to minimize lifetime selection biases by not including former and occasional drinkers in the reference group, and by using younger cohorts more representative of drinkers in the general population at baseline.”
The CDC recommends adult men consume no more than two drinks per day, while women should restrict themselves to one drink daily.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.